An item on tonight’s City Council meeting agenda is titled “First refusal to purchase Lot 8 Low Street.”

The matter will likely be sent to committee, but at the least, its presence for public airing indicates that the old Colby farm hasn’t been sold off yet.

At issue is a portion of about 7.5 acres at the corner of Low Street and Crow Lane.

It is known to some as (part of) the old Colby farm, and includes a venerable old farmhouse and several barns in which to store hay and/or machinery.

An Andover developer has a purchase-and-sale agreement on the land, and has received tentative approval from the Planning Board for a subdivision to include eight lots.

Because the builders will be requesting a zoning change from agricultural to residential, the city has right of first refusal.

At the moment, 2.9 acres are in play for $275,000.

Presumably, if the city comes up with that figure, it gets the property.

This parcel represents less than half of the total, but city officials say that “much” of the entire 7.5 acres is wetlands and thus not suitable for construction.

Until last week, municipal leaders had shown little interest in buying the land.

Now it appears leaders of several local boards, including the Open Space Committee, the Parks Commission and the Conservation Commission, will tasked with determining whether the city should consider buying the land.

Several city officials have suggested the land could be the site of athletic use.

Voters recently approved $1.7 million to carve baseball and track facilities out of existing city property.

Planning Board chairman Jim McCarthy, who spoke at a recent session of that board, said he would entertain the idea of “one soccer field and the rest wetlands.”

It could be argued that the old farm is not an ideal spot for houses that would start at more than $500,000.

The land is adjacent to the Crow Lane landfill, a tough-to-close operation whose olfactory emissions have offended many a nose in recent years. New homeowners likely will be unhappy to learn they seem to have moved adjacent to an unsightly hillock imported from industrial New Jersey.

Also, traffic of cars and utility trucks bringing material to the compost site and/or recycling center can be loud and incessant during the summer.

Is $275,000 an exorbitant price for 2.9 acres?

In March, city councilors voted to authorize an allocation that will allow the city, with state help, to buy 10.2 acres on Curzon Mill Road and put it aside as open space.

Cost of the Curzon Mill Road Open Space Protection Project was about $1 million, city officials said.

The city’s Community Preservation Committee contributed $535,000 from its open space fund; the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation was slated to add about $425,000, according the municipal leaders.

Essex County Greenbelt was scheduled to put in about $50,000.

The land is located near the end of Curzon Mill Road, a dead-end street that runs next to Maudslay State Park in the westernmost end of the city, close to the Merrimack River.

This is essentially woods — no one can play soccer or throw a Frisbee there.

In fact, it’s likely that most will never see this land.

But purchase of the property had broad support.

Whether an acquisition on Low Street has any backing is yet to be determined.


The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:


Bresnahan School Councill meeting, 3:15 p.m., 333 High St.

Planning and Developmental Subcommittee, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Budget and Finance Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Public Safety Committee, 7:15 p.m., City Hall.

City Council, 7:30 p.m., City Hall.


River Valley Charter School Grievance Committee, 6:30 p.m., 2 Perry Way.

Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Hall.

River Valley Charter School, 7 p.m., 2 Perry Way.


Affordable Housing Trust, 6:30 p.m., City Hall.

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, 7 p.m., City Hall.


Nock Middle School Council, 7 a.m., 70 Low St.

Finance Subcommittee of the Whole School Committee, 5:30 p.m., 70 Low St.

Parks Commission, 7 p.m., N/A.


Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-961-3149 or

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